The gambling website Bodog has been shut down and four Canadians indicted, including founder Calvin Ayre, for illegal gambling that generated more than $100 million in winnings, U.S. federal prosecutors say.
The website's domain name was seized Monday and the indictments, which were returned Feb. 22, were unveiled Tuesday in Baltimore, prosecutors said.
The indictments follow federal prosecutions last year of three of the biggest websites involved in online poker. More than 75 company bank accounts in 14 countries have been frozen, and authorities are seeking $3 billion in fines and restitution, in that investigation.
In addition to the 50-year-old Ayre, who was born in Lloydminster, Sask., prosecutors say the indictment names website operators James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney.
Gamblers in Maryland and elsewhere were sent at least $100 million by wire and cheques from 2005 to 2012, the U.S. Attorney's office said, adding Bodog conducted a $42-million advertising campaign between 2005 and 2008 to attract gamblers to the Bodog.com website.
The operation allegedly moved funds from Bodog's accounts located in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and elsewhere to pay winnings to gamblers. The four Canadians each face up to five years in prison for conducting an illegal gambling business and 20 years for money laundering. Bodog.com faces a fine of up to $500,000 for gambling and money laundering. Initial appearances for the individuals have not been scheduled.
Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore, said the four are not in custody and no attorneys had indicated by Tuesday afternoon they are representing the four or Bodog. Spokeswoman Vickie LeDuc said later Tuesday that arrest warrants had been issued for the four.
Ayre posted a statement on his website Tuesday saying that his company did not take U.S. bets.
'Bodog UK, Bodog Europe and Bodog Asia have never taken bets from the US. The BodogBrand is currently consulting with its legal advisers with a view to having the domain returned.'—Calvin Ayre, Bodog founder
"Bodog UK, Bodog Europe and Bodog Asia have never taken bets from the US," the statement said. "The BodogBrand is currently consulting with its legal advisers with a view to having the domain returned."
The statement also said the Bodog domain has not been in use since operations were switched from Bodog.com to Bodog.eu by the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group and The BodogBrand.com revoked its licensing agreement with MMGG on Dec. 15.
In a statement on CalvinAyre.com, Ayre wrote, "I see this as abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations. It is clear that the online gaming industry is legal under international law and in the case of these documents it is also clear that the rule of law was not allowed to slow down a rush to try to win the war of public opinion."
An affidavit filed along with the warrant to seize the site said investigators created accounts with Maryland addresses and received checks in the mail for winnings. The affidavit also said investigators interviewed a former Bodog employee who named top officers and directors and said the company had hundreds of employees in Canada and Costa Rica handling day-to-day operations.
"Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the internet without regulation."
Prosecutors say the investigation was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Baltimore and also involved the Internal Revenue Service, Anne Arundel County Police and Maryland State Police. HIS agents seized the domain name on Monday.